Thursday Mashup (4/11/13) (updates)

April 11, 2013

  • I don’t really have much to say here, but credit where it’s due to PA-31 U.S. House Rep Steve Santarsiero for introducing legislation mandating universal background checks for gun purchases in our beloved commonwealth, specifically long guns purchased at private sales (the Inquirer story more or less leads us to believe that those were the only guns that were previously exempt; also, sales between family members without a background check would apparently still be allowed – not completely happy with that, but for the time being, I’ll settle for three-quarters of the proverbial loaf…kudos to Steve – to find out more, including a petition to regulate drilling in the Marcellus Shale, click here).

    Also, I should note that Pat Toomey embodies just about everything I can’t stand in politics, and it remains an utter abomination that he defeated Joe Sestak in the campaign for Arlen Specter’s old seat in 2010. However, I would be remiss not to note his rather shocking cooperation with Dem Senator Joe Manchin on universal background checks (here) – I never thought I’d find myself giving Toomey credit for anything, but he deserves it here (though, of course, being a political animal, he knows the polling numbers on this issue, noted here and here, as well as anybody).

    I will be curious to see how “No Corporate Tax” Pat ends up re-burnishing his wingnut bona fides to work himself back into the good graces of the “American Illiterati,” as John Fugelsang so hilariously puts it, as a result of his good conduct on this issue.

    Update 1 4/16/13: So “We snookered the other side. They haven’t figured it out yet,” according to this insect named Alan Gottleib, huh (here)? Why am I not surprised?

    So Toomey-Manchin makes it a federal crime to set up a national gun registry? Because the wingnuts continue to live under this delusion that Obama is coming for their guns?

    Then ‘can the whole damn thing and try doing it right next time.

    Update 2 4/16/13: Where Crazy Tom Coburn goes, trouble surely follows (here) – just sh*tcan the whole damn thing and start over…better to have no deal than a rotten one.

  • And sticking with the subject of guns for a moment, Rich Lowry inflicts the following here (and why exactly is “America’s Fish Wrap” giving this clown a megaphone…oh, right – it’s more corporate media “balance”)…

    It is true that 90 percent of Americans support universal background checks. Who can be against background checks? Heck, even the NRA wants states to keep more complete records of who is forbidden from purchasing guns.

    Notice the meely-mouthed wording from Lowry here? He could just say “Heck, even the NRA supports universal background checks.”

    Of course, he doesn’t say that because he knows he would be utterly wrong (and as pointed out here, Lowry would still be wrong on the supposed issue of the NRA wanting to keep more complete records of who isn’t allowed to own a gun – how can states possibly do that when the NRA works as hard as they do to erode the gun laws we already have? And the linked story tells us once more that 90 percent of those polled, as well as 85 percent of NRA members, want universal background checks…and that includes Colorado, where James Holmes shot up his victims at the Aurora movie theater playing “The Dark Knight Rises,” as noted here).

    And oh yeah, did you know that the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre supported universal background checks in 1999, as noted here?

    Another thing…Lowry complains that President Obama supposedly “used children as props” in an effort to enact sane guns laws in this country.

    nra-ad1-228x300
    Yeah, don’t you hate that?

  • Next, Alex Nowrasteh propagandized as follows as The Daily Tucker recently (here)…

    H-1Bs are a bellwether for the economy. As growth picks up, so do filings for H-1B applications. As unemployment skyrockets, filings for H-1B applications plummet. The high demand for these visas this year is a good omen for the economy, and hopefully for immigration reform efforts as well. Highly skilled immigrants are generally considered the “sugar” in any immigration reform efforts — they are used to “sweeten” the other controversial elements like legalization.

    After all, highly skilled immigrants tend to speak English, and there’s little fear of them abusing welfare or committing crimes. Their children typically excel at school , are economically successful, and are more culturally integrated than their parents.

    Don’t you just love Nowrasteh’s disgusting inference that non H-1B workers are more likely to be “abusing welfare” and “committing crimes”?

    Meanwhile, this Boston Globe story tells us the following…

    ON JAN. 14, 2010, senior executives at Molina Healthcare in Long Beach, Calif., called their staff together for a somber meeting. The company had done poorly the previous quarter, they announced. Dozens of people in the IT department would have to be let go.

    What the fired employees didn’t know was that the previous day, the US Department of Labor had approved applications for 40 temporary workers from India to be placed at Molina, through a company called Cognizant.

    The fired employees — all US citizens or green card holders — were earning an average of $75,000 a year, plus benefits; the new workers, brought on H-1B visas, earned $50,000, with no benefits, according to a lawsuit filed by the ex-employees. The lawsuit alleges that Molina was flush with cash at the time, and that the real reason employees were fired was their nationality.

    The business model is to replace Americans,” said James Otto, their attorney.

    Not just at Molina, he said. “It’s happening across the country.”

    I’m not even sure why this is considered to be news any more by now, but if nothing else, it needs to be pointed out in response to the disgusting pabulum of Nowrasteh and others.

    And in a similar vein, I give you this

    Brookings interviewed numerous corporations for that study. The report stirred up a storm with such statements as “employers have a difficult time recruiting residents with the skills they need, largely blaming the weak foundation of secondary education in the United States…employers complain that there is a shortage of skilled workers…[some employers] mentioned that they must recruit at over 50 college campuses in the United States to find 100 [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] employees.”

    #Gene Nelson of San Luis Obispo, a PhD in radiation biophysics and an opponent of H-1B, calls the Brookings study “pathetic baloney.” He and fellow anti-H-1B activists make a good case that the program is basically a scheme to lower the overall wage level in the engineering/computer profession, thus jacking up corporate profits and paving the way for absurdly high top-management pay.

    And as noted in the video from here, an entire cottage industry has evolved of firms instructing potential employers how to run ads in order not to hire American workers and go the H-1B route instead (“gosh, well…you see, we just didn’t have a choice…all those baad American workers were busy collecting welfare and committing crimes…”).

    It would be nice to see one of these corporate bastards convicted of some type of malfeasance over this stuff, then get put out of business with each member of the management team sentenced to 20 years of hard labor on a rock pile.

    And let’s see now, Alex Nowrasteh, Alex Nowrasteh…why does that name sound familiar?

    Oh yeah, I remember now! He’s the son of Cyrus Nowrasteh, the propagandizing tool behind that “Path to 9/11” monstrosity that was posted about here and here (the wingnut apple doesn’t rot far from the tree, now does it?).

    (The late, great blog Outsourced America used to be all over this stuff – sigh.)

  • Continuing, it looks like we’ll have to deal with another crappy example of Repug non-governance (here)…

    This week House Republicans will introduce the misleadingly titled “Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013.” Touted by Republicans as a new comp time initiative that will give hourly-paid workers the flexibility to meet family responsibilities, it is neither new nor about giving these workers much needed time off to care for their families. The bill rehashes legislation Republicans passed in the House in 1997, some 16 years ago, and that they introduced again in most subsequent Congresses. Its major effect would be to hamstring workers – likely increasing overtime hours for those who don’t want them and cutting pay for those who do.

    Oh, but don’t you see? The Repugs are all about “choice.” As in, so-called “exempt” workers (who can’t collect overtime) have a choice now to work the hours denied to “non-exempt” employees who could collect the overtime before, but now cannot, since the exempt employees will do the work for them and the employers will pocket the difference in the way of bonuses for themselves. Witness our glorious free market enterprise system at work!

    And what if the “non-exempt” employee wants the money instead of the hours, and/or the “exempt” employee chooses not to do more work for free?

    unemployment-line_000
    Does this picture mean anything to any of us? Sure it does (especially after reading Alex Nowrasteh extolling the supposed virtues of H-1B workers, right?).

    And by the way, I want to emphasize that I’m not criticizing the author of this Hill column, who is Eileen Appelbaum, Senior Economist, Center for Economic and Policy Research (kudos to her for this, actually).

    So who is responsible for this latest legislative fraud? Why, that would be U.S. House Repug Martha Roby of Alabama (with the “blessing” of that sleazy weasel Eric Cantor, of course), as noted here.

    And as also noted here, it looks like Roby is a tool (“tool-ette”?) of the banksters, and yes, she supported Paul Ryan’s budget big time (here), and here is more of that “get big gumint out of the private sector, because Freedom!” stuff from Roby and the rest of her ilk.

    This latest bit of smoke and mirrors from the ruling clown show in the U.S. House will do nothing to address some of the iniquities faced by workers in this country as noted here (yes, I know the Forbes story is from November 2009, but based on my Google searching on this stuff, I haven’t found any improvements, sad to say).

    Update 5/8/13: And it looks like Roby is at it again (here).

  • Further, Jake Tapper decided to placate the other side over the latest bit of faux indignation (here)…

    On his CNN program Monday afternoon, Jake Tapper took a moment to look at the “buried lead” that is Fox News reporter Jana Winter facing jail time for refusing to out her confidential sources in a Colorado case. “Where is the public outrage?” Tapper asked his audience.

    In July 2012, during a “huge scoop,” Winter cited anonymous law enforcement sources when reporting that Aurora, Colo., theater shooter James Holmes had once given his psychiatrist a notebook detailing his plans for a killing spree. Tapper wrote on his CNN blog that her reporting on the story revealed how “the system failed” the victims, and that her scoop allowed the “public to judge how well the judicial, and mental health, and other systems are working.”

    “Instead of a focus on how the system failed, we’re talking about whether Winter should go to jail for reporting on Holmes’s journal, which was found in a mail room after the attack,” Tapper lamented.

    And so, Tapper wanted to know, “where’s the public outrage?

    Please…

    To begin, this stuff has been going on for years (as noted here), wrong as it is I’ll admit, but I didn’t hear anyone from Fix Noise or their fellow travelers complaining out loud when it involved the New York Times, the Washington Post, the AP, et cetera, et cetera.

    However, as noted here (with the headline asking a very good question), “By acquiring the notebook, however, it was clear that Winter had been in contact with an individual who violated the gag order imposed on anyone with information about the ongoing Holmes trial.”

    Here is my question – where is Winter’s editor in this fiasco? Does she even have one?

    It should also be noted that, on the subject of reporters and leaking or withholding information, Tapper has no grounds to criticize anybody. As noted here and here, he misrepresented the position of our prior ruling cabal on the issue of firing anyone who had anything to do with leaking the identity of Valerie Plame; Tapper said that Bushco would only fire someone who had broken the law – Plame’s husband, diplomat Joe Wilson, pointed out that the administration’s former PR flak Scott McClellan said they would fire anyone involved in the leak whether they’d broken the law or not (and as you’ll recall, Karl Rove, just about named by Time reporter Matthew Cooper, was allowed to leave on his own terms).

    I’ll admit that there’s room to question both the behavior of Winter and the judge here. However, you can’t go against a court ruling on revealing information that could be prejudicial to a trial (and by the way, you’d better believe that Holmes’s lawyers are concocting some way to try and get a potential guilty verdict overturned on grounds of a mistrial over this). And please spare me the wailing and gnashing of teeth…”oh, that baad mainstream media won’t cover this First Amendment catastrophe because it involves Fox.”

  • Finally, it’s time to turn to South Carolina U.S. Senator Huckleberry Graham (here).

    As we know, President Obama submitted his budget to Congress, which included the horrendous formula known as “Chained C.P.I.” as part of calculating Social Security benefits (opposed by 2.3 million people, as noted here).

    Of course, being a Repug, Graham just loves anything that sticks it to the “99 percent.” So how did he communicate what he thought of the budget?

    “The president is showing a bit of leg here,” Graham said.

    Now, if you’re of a certain age (and I am, which I’m a bit loathe to admit at times), one of the first images that comes into your mind when you hear that expression is that of actress Claudette Colbert in the movie “It Happened One Night” raising the hem of her dress to reveal a bit of leg, as it were, while trying to hitch hike, in an effort to get a car to slow down and look at her and offer a ride (the joke that works rather well in the movie is that her co-star Clark Gable first tried the more traditional means of sticking out his thumb, which obviously failed).

    I don’t suppose that Graham knows this, though his handlers obviously do, including the Repug Party marketers and image makers who are compensated handsomely for trying to pull the proverbial wool over our eyes on a 24/7/365 basis.

    My point (finally) is that, as opposed to saying, “We agree with some of what the president is proposing, but we want a closer look before we commit to anything” or similar language, Graham attempts to almost feminize Obama here, and thus, further trying to disrespect and delegitimize him (can you imagine the outcry if, say, Al Franken had said that about Dubya?).

    After all, you can’t truly be a Repug unless you’re shamelessly demagoguing your enemies and accusing them of the same tactics you’re practicing yourself, can you?

    Of course, Graham really doesn’t have any room to raise gender-bending talking points about anyone when you consider this…does he?


  • Steve Gets Hit Below The Belt

    October 7, 2012

    I was wondering why we really hadn’t heard much from Anne Chapman in her campaign to try and unseat Steve Santarsiero for the latter’s PA-31 State House set. And now I know why.

    It seems Chapman (aside from taking pot shots at Planned Parenthood like every other Republican) would rather let the slimy bottom-feeders of Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania do it for her.

    CAP is just another Teahadist-simpatico, “limited government,” glibertarian band of fools and frauds who, more often than not, performs the “circular firing squad” bit at Republicans who aren’t crazy enough for their liking.

    However, this time, they have decided to circulate a mailer making the truly scurrilous charge that Santarsiero approved funding for the “Second Mile” charity run by convicted pedophile (and former Penn State football coach) Jerry Sandusky (story is here – CAP also put together a mailer listing the salaries of the teachers of the Neshaminy School District, taking a page from the truly odious Simon Campbell of the Pennsbury School Board…oppose what the Neshaminy teachers are doing if you wish – on balance, I don’t – but keep such Rovian garbage out of our beloved commonwealth).

    Fortunately, a synapse of an actual journalistic impulse by the Courier Times editorial board snapped to life, and they wrote the following about the CAP/Santarsiero mess today (here)…

    While Santarsiero’s votes on state spending are legitimate fodder for debate — the broad allegation in the mailers — such discussion should be grounded in fact. Instead, the mailers fudge a most important fact leading to this reckless allegation: that Santarsiero cast an “irresponsible” vote awarding $3 million of taxpayer money to (Second Mile) “AFTER it was revealed that (the charity) was under investigation for being the place Sandusky used to find his future child victims.”

    Fact is, that vote was cast in 2010, well before the abuse scandal broke. And Santarsiero was but one lawmaker among many, including several from Bucks, who approved a grant for The Second Mile charity, which at the time was not widely known to be associated with Sandusky — hardly a household name anyway. Additionally, none of that money made it to Second Mile, which is supposed to benefit poor kids, as lawmakers withheld the funds when the allegations against Sandusky became known.

    Here is a link to the vote in question (119 Yeas and 75 Nays…in addition to Steve, Repugs Gene DiGirolamo, Frank Farry and Mike “Mitt Romney Will Win PA Because of Voter ID” Turzai are also on the list in the “Yea” column…so they supposedly helped fund Second Mile under aid and abet Sandusky also?).

    (By the way, though the Courier Times editorial board deserves credit here for doing the right thing, I have to wonder why they stepped up on this occasion but allow publication in their Op-Ed section of such a torrent of demonstrably contestable right-wing lies on a routine basis.)

    Considering all of this, what does Steve’s challenger Anne Chapman have to say? The news story tells us the following…

    “CAP is an independent organization. They can do what they do. I have nothing to say about it,” said the Lower Makefield resident. “Tell (Santarsiero) to take it up with CAP.”

    But Leo Knepper, the executive director of CAP, said his group’s representatives met with Chapman to discuss issues “that are important to CAP” before deciding to take aim at Santarsiero.

    So we’re supposed to believe that, somehow, Knepper spoke with Chapman but didn’t mention the upcoming mailer?

    If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge to one of the five New York City boroughs to sell to you; as far as I’m concerned, that makes Chapman both a liar and a coward for not denouncing the slimy tactics of Leo Knepper and Bob Guzzardi of CAP.

    This is Leo Knepper, by the way (pic is from philly.com – I think it’s important to identify these cretins as completely as possible).

    The best way to respond to this idiotic garbage is to help Steve, and to do that, please click here.


    Monday Mashup Part One (10/25/10)

    October 25, 2010

  • 1) The Bucks County Courier Times basically copped out yesterday in the matter of an endorsement for the PA-08 congressional race, writing one column supporting Patrick Murphy and one column supporting Mike Fitzpatrick (here). And as you may have guessed, the “endorsement” of Fitzpatrick basically consisted of “he’s not Patrick Murphy.”

    If, God forbid, this district is ever represented in Congress by a Republican again, I will watch to see if an editorial endorsing both candidates is ever forthcoming (with the Dem endorsement basically being that he/she is not a Repug). And I’m sure I won’t see it.

    And get a load of this in the “pro-Mikey” screed…

    Rather than stand on his own record since January 2007, Murphy’s strategy has been to berate Fitzpatrick for his performance in Congress in 2005-06 and has even bashed him for his service as a county commissioner well over a decade ago.

    Memo to the Courier Times editorial board: is there some statute of limitations out there beyond which a candidate cannot be criticized? If so, I don’t know of it.

    And keeping up with that theme, we have this from Courier Times reporter Gary Weckselblatt, who, as far as I’m concerned, has been carrying water for Mikey throughout this campaign (noted in a particularly astute Letter to the Editor here).

    Today’s article tells us, in part, the following…

    AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, has been the biggest outside spender in the 8th by purchasing $628,000 worth of radio ads.

    Their theme has been to hit Fitzpatrick for “giving himself a $20,000 raise” while he was a Bucks County commissioner. In actuality, the $20,000 came over a 10-year period as part of annual cost of living adjustments.

    Give me a break, people!

    How many of us have jobs in the public sector where we are awarded annual COLAs of $2 grand? And that doesn’t even take yearly raises into account!

    And get a load of this from the pro-Mikey editorial…

    More importantly, we’re not sold on the Democratic program for the nation. Give the Dems credit for averting an immediate economic disaster. But their game plan has come at an enormous financial cost that most people can’t begin to fathom. Unemployment remains high. And the centerpiece of the first half of Obama’s term in office, health care reform, was so badly botched that many Democrats who supported it, Murphy included, have shied away from it as they seek re-election.

    Oh yes, click here to find out how much Murphy has “shied away” from health care reform (and if you support him, click here to help elect our congressman for another term).

  • 2) Staying with the Courier Times, Rob Ciervo, running against Steve Santarsiero for the latter’s PA-31 House seat, laid it on thick as follows today (from here)…

    This year (Steve) joined with the Democrat majority to borrow $600 million to fund pork barrel projects like $10 million for an Arlen Specter library and $20 million for a luxury spa and golf resort in Chester County.

    This is a typical trick from “Republic” Party candidate “Self” Ciervo, blaming Steve for appropriations to other districts in this state (the last time Ciervo wrote something for the Courier Times, he blamed Steve because the Philadelphia school district received a bigger appropriation than the Pennsbury or Council Rock school districts in Bucks – sorry I cannot locate the link).

    I’m sure that, given the chance, Ciervo would hold his breath and turn blue if an appropriations bill for Bucks County wasn’t passed aside from one for the rest of the state, thus creating more gridlock for him to complain about.

    Also (from Ciervo’s column today)…

    Contrary to what you might have read elsewhere, I voted against building two new township buildings in Newtown Township and voted against taking on any debt to do so.

    Really? Not according to this letter.

    Update 10/27/10: In response to Mr. Booth, I think this criticism is bogus, but I’ll allow it anyway.

    And as noted here, Ciervo sought a tax increase for the preservation of open space in Newtown before he bothered to complete a report on the subject (Steve has favored municipal cooperation within Bucks which, while cheaper, also makes a lot more sense).

    Also (returning to Ciervo’s column again)…

    If (Steve) had done what he actually promised, such as eliminate wasteful spending and make our state competitive for job creation, I might not be running for state representative at all.

    From Steve’s web site (here)…

    Since taking office in January 2009, I have been working to bring jobs into the Yardley-Newtown area while fighting to protect the jobs that we already have.

    Earlier this year I succeeded in getting a major international marketing firm to relocate to Lower Makefield, bringing with it over 200 jobs to our community. At the same time, I fought the New Jersey Legislature over its proposal to require that all New Jersey public employees live in the Garden State. As a result of my efforts, New Jersey lawmakers finally agreed to exempt current employees from the new rule, saving over 3,000 families in the Yardley-Newtown area from having to choose between their jobs and their homes.

    But we need to do more.

    That’s why in a second term I will work to create a system of tax credits to small businesses to help them expand and create more jobs. Those credits will compliment the bill that I proposed this year – and which was passed and signed into law in July – that will make more credit available to small businesses as they grow.

    I also will work on a series of targeted tax incentives to attract biotech and alternative energy companies to Pennsylvania. These incentives will include the creation of “Green Enterprise Zones” designed to offer tax abatements to companies in the alternative energy and green technology sectors who pledge to stay in Pennsylvania for the long haul and create jobs for Pennsylvanians.

    Finally, when the economy begins to improve and revenues to the state pick up, we need to continue previous efforts to lower the corporate net income tax rate to help make Pennsylvania more competitive with other states. At the same time, we should phase out the corporate stock and franchise tax for the same reason.

    Ciervo also criticizes Steve for not “stand(ing) up to the special interest groups like the teachers union,” though, as the Courier Times noted in it’s editorial endorsing Steve today…

    We disagree with the Democrat on teachers’ right to strike, which he supports, although Santarsiero makes a strong case for a negotiation process that would start earlier and end with arbitration, with teachers barred from striking if they do not accept an arbitrator’s decision, and a district’s state money held in escrow if the school board does not accept the arbitrator’s decision.

    Another thing…let’s not forget that Ciervo is another “teabagger” in these parts (here), and also, let’s not forget the following (here)…

    Mike Gallagher, a Newtown Township Supervisor, was recently arrested and charged with a DUI. Not only is Gallagher still a Newtown Township Supervisor, he is being supported by follow Republican Supervisor Rob Ciervo in his decision to remain on the [board], which oversees the Newtown Township police force.

    Also, as noted in the comments, Gallagher tried to threaten the arresting officer, though Ciervo continues to support Gallagher (just another case of Repug “do as I say, not as I do” self-entitlement run amok).

    Please click here to support Steve and keep Ciervo in Newtown for as long as the township wishes to tolerate his presence.

  • 3) Finally, this story tells us the following…

    ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) – Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin rallied Republican candidates in Florida on Saturday by pillorying President Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms and economic policies — and she also used her speech to plug her new TV reality show “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.”

    I don’t have much to say about this, except the following:

    I double-dog-dare Palin to come up here and make an appearance for Pat Toomey!

    Particularly since, as noted here, “No-Corporate-Tax Pat” is backing away from Palin’s protégé “Yes Wiccan!” O’Donnell here, saying in part the following…

    Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Toomey said he does not agree with O’Donnell’s idea that states should not be bound by the First Amendment’s prohibition on establishing a religion.

    “This is nothing that I’ve ever spoken about or agreed with,” Toomey said.

    However, as noted here…

    In a question on the separation of church and state, Toomey tried to clearly demonstrate that he understands the First Amendment separation of church and state _ an issue in O’Donnell’s race _ but went on to suggest that it shouldn’t be used to ban all involvement between religion and government.

    As an example, he said parents of children in poorly performing public schools should be able to send their children on the public dime to private schools whether or not they have a religious affiliation.

    It really isn’t a good idea for Toomey to talk about school issues anyway, seeing as how, as noted here…

    Toomey pioneered dangerous interest rate swaps “In the years that Toomey ran sales and trading at Morgan Grenfell, the company brokered a number of interest rate swap deals with municipal governments (called “local councils”) in the United Kingdom. (Although Toomey was based in New York, he also managed the firm’s derivatives business [11] in Tokyo and London.) In the UK, municipalities are generally funded by the central government. But under Margaret Thatcher, their funding had become sharply limited, and many were searching for alternative, off-the-books methods of funding their operations. Morgan Grenfell and other derivatives dealers stepped into the breach, brokering deals with and between various municipalities. Interest rate swaps-where the two parties in effect bet on whether interest rates are going to go up or down-were especially popular. Many of these deals were in effect loans-the councils would receive large sums up front and pay them back over time based on interest rate differences. Of course, if the interest rates went the wrong way, you could end up owing far more than you initially anticipated.”

    Toomey’s interest rate swaps were dangerous and risky. “During the campaign, Toomey has referred to the products he worked with [12] as “non-risky” “common derivatives,” different from the “toxic” mortgage-backed derivatives that some believe caused the financial crisis. “That’s not true,” says Michael Greenberger, a professor at the University of Maryland and former CFTC official. “It just so happens that the 2008 meltdown involved credit default swaps, but interest rate swaps and currency swaps can be as risky as anything else. These swaps are very, very risky.”

    Toomey’s interest rate swaps cost Pennsylvania (schools and local) communities millions. “Toomey’s defense ignores the recent history of interest rate swaps, which led to fiscal problems for many American towns, cities, and states across the country in recent years. The US never had a House-of-Lords-type decision forbidding municipalities from making these sorts of deals. So just as Morgan Grenfell had in the ’80s, US banks pressed local governments to agree to swap deals to bring in extra revenue. And this time, many of the banks allegedly paid kickbacks [13] on the deals. (The kickbacks are the subject of an ongoing federal investigation.) In Pennsylvania alone, 107 school districts reportedly [14] entered into swap deals-”gambling with the public’s money,” according to the state’s auditor general. Some have since paid millions of dollars to Wall Street banks to get out from under the deals. Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, Missouri, Philadelphia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Oregon all recently lost money on similar swap deals, according to the [14]Wall Street Journal [14].”

    Click here to help elect Admiral Joe Sestak to the Senate next week, and thus send Toomey back to Wall Street, who I’m sure will greet him with open arms, and probably a blank check as well.


  • Two For Steve Against “Self” Ciervo

    October 18, 2010

    This letter appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times today…

    Steve Santarsiero is the type of state legislator we need in Harrisburg. With our struggling economy, frequent stories of corruption and bad behavior by politicians, and the flood of negative political advertising it is tempting to think “throw the bums out” and vote against all incumbents. Don’t do it.

    I have watched Santarsiero first as a Lower Makefield supervisor and now as a state legislator for District 31. He has always done what he believes is right and not what is politically expedient.

    In Lower Makefield he was the driving force behind televising the board of supervisors meetings, opening up the process of appointments to boards and commissions, pursuing green energy alternatives and fighting commercial development which would negatively impact our lives.

    In Harrisburg he has led on fiscal responsibility by example, not taking per diems, a government car, or public health insurance. He has proposed a bill that would require all representatives to pay toward their health care and supports the recommendation put forward by the grand jury investigating corruption in the legislature. After last year’s budget stand-off Steve proposed a bill that would cause legislators to lose their salary for every day past the June 30 deadline that a budget is late.

    One state legislator cannot change Harrisburg alone. But we cannot afford to lose one who is sincerely trying to bring responsibility and sanity to our state government by replacing him with someone who cannot match his record.

    Doreene Kaplan
    Lower Makefield, PA

    …followed by this letter…

    My family has lived in Newtown Township for 18 years – the past six in a new development called Wiltshire Walk. Shortly after moving in, my neighbors and I discovered the ill-willed plan to build the massive (2,000 employees) Brandywine office complex next door and feed the traffic right through the middle of our neighborhood.

    We were even more devastated to read in the traffic study that our neighborhood street was slated to become a bypass to the Newtown Bypass. The residents in the older neighborhood behind us did not have to worry about the impact of traffic, because they had their public road closed – no surprise that I would later learn of their close ties to the local Republican “good ole’ boys.”

    I first met Rob Ciervo when he was a resident who publicly and fully supported the high-density Brandywine development, despite the fact that it would have meant our kids dodging thousands of cars coming through our neighborhood every day and residents having another light and more congestion on the Bypass. I still have the e-mail he sent my husband and I convincing us Brandywine was not so bad. Then we learned he was the manager for a local supervisor campaign and that the campaign’s party took two large contributions from a VP of Brandywine. No wonder he was trying to promote their destructive plan!

    I have watched how Rob has conducted himself over the years – especially during his campaign for supervisor in 2007. I have never seen anyone twist or bend the truth more than he does. He has a Ph.D. in psychology and he uses it well to craft his spin into sound bites that will get him elected. His partisan antics as supervisor have divided the community rather than uniting us for the common good.

    Rob also claims that because he was born and raised here that somehow makes him a superior candidate. Well, we had a Newtown native in charge here for years – Skip Goodnoe – who was instrumental in the local Republican good ole boys putting party interests over those of residents. They sugar-coated their detrimental plans to sell them to the public or, even worse, shoved them down our throats when we protested – as was the case with Brandywine. Protecting the community’s heritage was not Skip’s priority despite being born and raised here. Sometimes people who move here appreciate and fight harder to keep the unique character we love about our town.

    This is why I find it easy to say no to Rob Ciervo and cross party lines to say yes to Steve Santarsiero. As a Lower Makefield supervisor for six years and state representative since last year, Steve has proven to me that:

    – He can be trusted to do the right thing on behalf of residents to ensure our quality of life.
    – He works hard for everyone – not just those in his own party.
    – He is willing to fight for reform in Harrisburg, even if it means going against his own party leadership.

    That’s the kind of leader I can wholeheartedly support.

    Jen Dix
    Newtown Township, PA

    And to help Steve, click here.


    Monday Mashup (6/14/10)

    June 14, 2010

  • 1) The Bucks County Courier Times ran a Guest Opinion today from Rob “Self” Ciervo, running as a Repug against incumbent Dem Steve Santarsiero for the PA-31 State House seat (here).

    Among Ciervo’s supposedly innovative ideas is to cut the staffing of each state representative’s office (which I’m sure will do wonders for response to constituent requests) and cutting down the number of mailers allowed per state representative (Ciervo states that Santarsiero has sent out five over the prior year, but I honestly cannot recall that many – by the way, I’ll await word on how many campaign mailers have been sent from Repug PA House reps Frank Farry, Gene DiGirolamo and Paul Clymer during that time, as long as Ciervo has brought this up).

    Ciervo also states as follows…

    No state senator or representative should be allowed under any circumstance to hire an individual who was paid to perform political tasks for any campaign the two years prior to their appointment. This is one of the main problems with our legislature; Harrisburg politicians hire their campaign staff to be on the state payroll. Santarsiero did just this by hiring all three of his paid campaign staff from the 2008 campaign to the state payroll immediately after winning election. How will we know they will not continue to do political campaigning for him, perhaps unpaid, while they are supposed to be serving the residents of our area?

    That’s a pretty low, baseless attack against Steve’s staff, with no proof of any wrongdoing of course.

    Ciervo also says that any state employee under 50 should have his or her pension benefit “frozen and transferred into a 401(k) style defined contribution retirement account,” which makes me wonder what other industry or category of worker in existence has been subject to such a draconian measure (I realize we have a pension issue in this state, but the public employees have paid their fair share while the state has been neglectful in paying its matching amount, as noted here).

    And as noted in the prior linked post, Santarsiero voted in favor of a bill to amend payment of unfunded actuarial liability to PA pension plans (again, not that Ciervo would ever acknowledge that…curious that the Courier Times published this from Ciervo the day after they gave column space to that nitwit Simon Campbell for his monthly rant against the Pennsbury teachers union – their contract expires on the 30th, Simple Simon; are you gonna move “off the dime” and do the job you were elected to do, or goad them into a strike instead…dumb question, I know).

    This is all part and parcel for Ciervo, who accused Steve of voting against funding state colleges (here – not true), and who trivialized Steve’s efforts on behalf of PA residents working for the state of New Jersey who face the very real issue of forced relocation to keep their jobs (here).

    I can hardly wait for more bold ideas in Ciervo’s next Guest Opinion, such as placing a quota on the number of Post-Its, ballpoint pens and notepads allocated to each State House rep. And how about mandating that each member of our legislature hold up one or two fingers as appropriate for a “bio break,” Rob?

    (And by the way, to contact Steve, click here.)

  • Update 6/15/10: Gee, I wonder if Teabagger Rob will endorse Steve’s idea of a constitutional convention, one of the many worthy suggestions from Santarsiero’s Guest Opinion today (here)?

  • 2) Also, I give you J.D. Mullane of the Courier Times (here)…

    June 12, 1987. President Reagan delivered one of the great speeches of the Cold War era. Two years later, the hated wall came down, endng “the brutal division of a continent.” The columns behind him are real, by the way.

    I guess that last sentence is a dig at Obama and his acceptance speech at the Democratic Party Convention in 2008 (here).

    While Mullane is not factually incorrect for a change, his insinuation that The Sainted Ronnie R had one damn thing to do with the collapse of the former Soviet Union is laughable (yes, I know this is familiar territory, but J.D. is the one resurrecting this piece of mythology, not me).

    For, as Madeleine Albright, secretary of state to President Clinton, put it here, “attributing the end of the Cold War to Ronald Reagan is like attributing the sunrise to the rooster’s cackle.”

  • 3) And speaking of Repug presidents, Laura Ingraham over at Fix Noise took a short at Number 44 also with the specious claim that he was “fundraising off the Gulf spill” (here).

    She continues…

    Did President Bush ever raise money off of 9/11?

    I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that he used it in his campaign commercials when running for president in 2004, as noted here, with some relatives of the victims claiming that Former President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History was “exploiting the tragedy for political gain.”

    I guess John Kerry is too honorable of a man to do what I’m suggesting he should have done, but if I were his campaign manager in 2004, I would have run an ad showing 43 sitting dumbfounded in that Florida classroom next to film of the WTC, Pentagon and Shanksville, PA crash sites while the attacks were in progress, with the words, “it happened on his watch” onscreen, and absolutely nothing else.


  • Steve Santarsiero Deflects A Garden-State Ciervo Slam

    March 16, 2010

    PA-31 State Rep. Steve Santarsiero communicated the following recently…

    Last week I sent a letter to New Jersey legislators urging them to reconsider the proposal that would require all state, county and local government employees, as well as teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees in the state, to reside in New Jersey within four months of employment for new hires and two-and-one-half years for existing employees.

    I am calling on these legislators to ‘grandfather’ in current employees, exempting them from this residency requirement.

    This proposal would adversely impact many families in the Newtown-Yardley area, potentially putting them in a position of having to move or lose their jobs within two and a half years. It could have a devastating impact on our local economy. It is a question of fairness, and it is simply not fair to change the rules midway through the game.

    I encourage you to join me in calling on the New Jersey legislature to reconsider this residency requirement. Click here to sign the petition.

    For all of the latest information about issues in state government that affect you, please check my Web site often. And as always, please contact me if I may be of further service to you or your family.

    This was covered in the Bucks County Courier Times recently here, and in response, Santarsiero’s Repug opponent “Self” Ciervo said:

    “Steve is grandstanding,” said Ciervo. “He should be focusing on things he has control over and doing the job he was elected to do. This proposed bill in New Jersey is going nowhere and is just grandstanding by some politicians over there.”

    Oh, I don’t know about that, Teabagger Rob. As this nj.com story tells us, the bill enjoys the support of Repug Gov. Chris Christie, who has commenced trying to balance the state budget on the backs of the poor, sick and elderly, to say nothing of the public schools (here…memo to progressives everywhere – this is what happens when you sit on your hands during an election cycle).

    And I don’t think it would be prudent of me to hold my breath waiting for Ciervo to call out a fellow Repug on this (the NJ relocation bill, I mean).


    “Self Ciervo” And His PA Pension Polemic

    February 8, 2010

    The following appeared on the Op-Ed page of the Bucks County Courier Times today from Rob Ciervo, running against Steve Santarsiero for the PA-31 State House seat (from here)…

    The Courier Times editorial staff is right to hold all incumbents and candidates for state representative and state Senate to a pledge to put forth serious ideas about the current public pension crisis. As a candidate for the state House in the Makefields, Yardley and Newtown areas, this issue will be one of great importance to my goal of reforming Harrisburg to save taxpayers’ money.

    The problem? Public employees receive a defined benefit pension plan, guaranteed by taxpayers for life. If the money is not in the retirement fund then taxes have to be raised to pay out the benefits each year. In 2012, what now costs $1 billion will cost more than $3 billion and that is not a one time payment, these payments will continue for decades.

    I have a question; is Ciervo talking about underfunded plans? If so, the following should be noted from here (a pensions subcommittee report issued last April)…

    The subcommittee recommends that Pennsylvania follow Missouri’s example by enacting legislation that prohibits municipalities from authorizing pension benefit increases unless their pension plan would be at least 80 percent funded after taking the increased liability into account. Such a provision would prevent municipalities still catching up on prior underfunding of plans from approving further benefits that they could not easily afford.

    Also (from the report)…

    With regard to defined contribution versus defined benefit plans, subcommittee members did not reach consensus but recognized the need to balance labor’s concerns for pension security with municipalities’ concerns for controlling costs.

    In addition to basic fairness in honoring the state’s defined benefit pension obligation here (with those pensioners being almost entirely individuals nearing retirement), there’s another reason why the obligations should be honored, and that is because, as noted here, it is illegal not to do so…

    “The state employees and the teachers have been putting their fair share in every year and we have not. Shame on us that it hasn’t occurred, we should have been doing this all along,” said Rep Mario Scavello (R-Monroe).

    “During the good years, instead of paying our normal costs, we ended up putting it on a credit card, and now that credit card has come due, so if I change it to another system and another credit card, it will probably add even more to what it will cost in the long run. If we do not get enough money to meet our normal costs, we can’t invest it, and then we have even less and the amount the taxpayers owe will be even greater,” said Melva Volger, chairman of the (Public School Employees Retirement System) PSERS board.

    Also, get a load of this from Ciervo…

    The private sector realized decades ago that defined benefit plans are completely unsustainable in an age where with the best medical system in the world, residents are living much longer than any actuary would have expected.

    As Wikipedia tells us here, the U.S. ranks 38th in worldwide life expectancy (in your face, Uruguay, Macedonia and Latvia!).

    And here’s more “fun” from Ciervo…

    The first pension reform needed is to simply eliminate the option for a taxpayer-funded pension for any new state employee, including public school educators. All new hires should be provided the option to participate in a defined contribution plan, whereby employees contribute at least 5 percent of their salary, pre-tax, toward their retirement fund and the state matches that contribution at the minimum of 5 percent as well.

    Good luck trying to attract good teachers with a crappy pension benefit (of course, this ties in nicely to what Ciervo and his teabagger friend Simon Campbell want to do, and that is to force a Pennsbury teachers strike to try and make Steve look bad, among other goals). And if the taxpayers aren’t going to contribute the “match” here, where will it come from?

    And finally…

    You can be certain that the Philadelphia and Harrisburg union bosses will vehemently oppose this plan. They will continue to fund the campaigns of candidates who would block these needed reforms and offer little assistance to the taxpayer in return.

    Actually, as noted here, Steve Santarsiero voted in favor of a bill to amend payment of unfunded actuarial liability to PA pension plans (not that Ciervo would actually acknowledge that, of course).

    I will grudgingly admit that Ciervo is right to point out that the day must come when public employees move to the 403(b) defined contribution plans he advocates. But as noted here, our pension issue in PA emerged due to market conditions first and foremost (referencing the words of Rep. Scavello above), and the PSERS, at which Ciervo is taking aim, “is well-managed and as sound as any public pension plan in the country.” Let’s all take a deep breath and keep that in mind before we try to take a sledgehammer to it, OK?

    And to contact Steve, click here.

    Update 2/16/10: Here is another welcome dose of reality on this subject.


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